Marla Silversmith teaches the life skills class at Amador Valley, where students learn daily living skills so they can learn to live as independently as possible. Her students run the Dons' Diner as well as a cookie business.
Earlier, Silversmith worked at Foothill, and at Vintage Hills Elementary, where she taught autistic children.
District Spokeswoman Myla Grasso said candidates for Teacher of the Year are nominated by other teachers or administrators; the selection process is done by a team of past teachers of the year.
The nomination form for Silversmith stated that because of her work, nearly all of the 2,500 students at Amador Valley "have learned to better understand and to embrace the world of special needs kids."
In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Silversmith arranges for her students to go to football games, school dances, ice skating and Disneyland, where they practice and use the skills they've learned.
Silversmith started in the district in 2001 after receiving bachelor's and master's degrees from Cal State Sacramento, along with a special education teaching credential.